“Just to see people winning makes you want to take that first leap of faith without self-doubt. That’s what I love about CIA—the winning vibe and endless strive for excellence.”
How did you become interested in food?
My real passion for food got nurtured in my own family kitchen. Hailing from a joint family, I had the pleasure of experiencing an ample variety of food from the hands of my mother and aunts. Since my entire family fought the “battle of the bulge,” I realized at the age of 13 the need for the right food which not only engages with all our visual, olfactory, and gustatory senses, but also is health-friendly and does not mess with our cholesterol or sugar levels. I then engaged in research of foods that had low glycemic index and high protein. Flip-flopping from visiting health stores to browsing food magazines, I came across a range of these foods that includes quinoa, kamut grains, and many more—and updated my typical Indian kitchen consisting of rice and other carbohydrate-rich items to a more contemporary one.
From then on, my interest in exploring the food world only grew, to the extent where my mom and I would source international grains from Germany and experiment in the kitchen. Sometimes it was a success and other times a miserable flop—but it never stopped me from trying harder.
Why did you choose the CIA?
I chose the CIA because it is not only the best culinary school in the world, it’s a premiere culinary college that gives cooking the respect of a serious art form. CIA is an institute that is highly reputable. I wanted to be associated with the CIA for primarily this reason—point-blank honesty right here.
How have scholarships and/or grants helped you reach your goal of getting a CIA education?
Scholarships and grants have stimulated my interest further in the CIA, enabling me to understand that if one is deserving of the right to an education there is no stopping that person. In my situation, the scholarships were not massive; however, I certainly did receive grants.
What do you like best about the CIA?
The CIA is so diverse and we see people from different walks of life making it big here, going beyond their race and ethnicity to optimize their experience with equal opportunity. Just to see people winning makes you want to take that first leap of faith without self-doubt. That’s what I love about the CIA—the winning vibe and endless strive for excellence.
Do you belong to any clubs or participate in any activities/sports on campus?
I belong to the Indian club, called the Masala Club. I restarted the club and became its president, and when I left on extern I handed my position to someone else who did an amazing job for the club. The Masala Club’s primary goal is to enlighten people on the true essence of Indian culture. I was also an international representative of the Student Government Association, which enabled me to meet international students and get to the know their journey and struggles at the CIA, which often go beyond the language barrier. I was able to clearly communicate those concerns to the board.
What is your favorite dish to make?
My favorite dish to make is butter chicken (the north Indian style ); there is no way you can go wrong with it . Rich, calorie-laden, and extremely delicious, it’s happiness served in a bowl with naan bread.
How has your CIA education prepared you for the business side of food?
I am still in the program so I feel like the businesswoman in me is still “in the making,” but classes such as costing and principles of menus and managing profitability are so essential to enlighten students about the real feel of the deal. My externship at Disney World in Florida was a huge milestone in my life. The experience was very hands-on and I can tell you for sure nothing can get more real than that. I have learned through my experiences that a business does not only become big and successful with a huge amount of start-up money; rather, a big idea and a lot of time invested in nurturing the idea determines the long-term success of a business. The food business can be very lucrative, so constant reinvention is vital.
What are the best lessons you’ve learned while at the CIA?
I have learned many lessons in school. The fact that I was just 17 when I began my culinary journey at the CIA made a huge impact in the way I perceived independent life. I was mostly naive and oblivious to most things happening around me. I was so caught up in my euphoria of being independent and traveling the seven seas to the land of dreams, the United States of America, that I kept making a lot of innocent mistakes. But my time here—experiences with cultural difference, age difference, lack of experience, and more—made me grow stronger and develop a thick skin. I am more confident, content, and stronger now than I have ever been before. I have learned a lot from the CIA in terms of life skills and taking ownership of your responsibilities.
What are your career goals and how will your CIA education help you get there?
After graduating with my degree in food business management, I look forward to pursuing my management education at a master’s level. With a constant quest to hone my food skills, I hope to work in a Michelin-starred restaurant or hotel of repute to gain multi-dimensional cuisine experience in the hotel industry. My passion for foods is bonded with earnest desire to be innovative with healthy grains like Fonio, Farro (Aka Emmer), Freekeh, and Teff, as well as many more grains that have high antioxidant content. The CIA equips me with core knowledge and skill to introduce multiple variants in food trends edged with a research-based knowledge in gastronomy. This will enable me to realize my dream to serve hospitals, senior homes, and Parkinson patients with an enriching, health-friendly, fine food experience. Apart from that, I also hope to travel the world to taste every cuisine. This thought was first nurtured in my mind when I experienced authentic Taiwanese cuisine in Taiwan. It was unforgettable and the most exciting food experience I have ever had, and from then on I have had a strong urge to explore and be experimental with food.
What advice would you give to a new student or someone who is considering attending the CIA?
The CIA is not a destination; it is a beautiful journey. Once you begin, there is no looking back.